What I did this summer …

We’re still in the throes of a major move … but right in the middle of it we decided it was time to spend a week with our son in San Francisco.  Most wonderful vacation we’ve ever had, due in part to the location, but mostly to his kindness and the joy of being with him.  Following are some thoughts I wrote down while spending a beautiful afternoon in my own company …

There are thousands of homeless in the San Francisco area, some of whom have gravitated there to take advantage of the mild weather, some who have fallen on hard times since arriving or having been born there, some who have been dumped as mental patients by one facility or another (a sordid tale that breaks my heart). The stories would be as varied as the sheer numbers. They make it from day to day … or don’t. If they wake up it’s on the same park bench they fell asleep on … or in the same doorway … or in whatever hooch they can fashion for themselves. Many push and carefully guard shopping carts filled with a smelly assortment of items dear to them, if only because they found them before someone else did. Some are very bold, like the man who came into the Boudin courtyard and made a rather eloquent speech about the need for food on the part of every human, and the fact that a morsel or two would really not be all that costly. His willingness to look people in the eye and state his need earned him a bit of lunch money from this midwesterner while the tears lurked behind my eyes and I mentally reviewed the endless list of reasons why I wake up thankful and inexplicably blessed every day. If you’re thinking “What a bleeding heart,” that’s fine — it doesn’t change what I know … that as the “human” race we’re in this together, like it or not. And it isn’t always our own wise choices that buy us a decent trip through life, however much pride might whisper that in our ear. I’ve been gratified to see that the police tend to treat them with a certain gentleness and allow them their little patch of dirt or concrete. After a few days’ observation, the structure of their underground society starts to become clear. This is neither an argument for nor against dependency, just a statement of how things are. And I don’t feel in the least offended to be asked to share a pittance from the well I dip into every day without question.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jennypellett
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 10:20:03

    Very thought provoking, Judy – and well written, as always.

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  2. Roy McCarthy
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 02:16:15

    Judy it’s sad how quickly one’s life can spiral out of control, and brave are those that hold together a modicum of self-respect though they find themselves at rock bottom. Unfortunately, in Europe anyway, professional begging gangs who have no intention of ever doing a day’s work have made it even worse for the genuine cases.

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    • Judy Smith
      Sep 13, 2013 @ 06:48:05

      And in the case of those with severe mental illness, who are unceremoniously dumped on the streets (a documented practice by the state of Nevada), there is no hope in sight. We witnessed the results first-hand during our time in San Francisco last week. Scary and heartbreaking.

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  3. Grief Happens
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 19:15:40

    Yay! You’re back. What a beautiful piece. I feel the same way. San Francisco is one of my all-time favorite cities. I was a flight attendant for five years, and spent lots of time in San Francisco. I even took three of my friends there for five days as sort of a bachelorette weekend before my wedding. It was all kinds if fabulous! This bleeding heart always gave something to the homeless people, though plenty of my travel companions frowned upon it. I always marveled at the creativity of those in the bay area who had fallen on hard times. Most were kind and gracious, and my interactions never failed to remind me how very fortunate I am. Glad you enjoyed your trip, and I look forward to reading more.

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    • Judy Smith
      Sep 12, 2013 @ 22:07:31

      Thank you so much. I love hearing that you love San Francisco — this was the most magical vacation we’ve ever had, in great part because our son is so kind and so much fun to be with, but also because there’s really no other city like the one by the Bay.

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  4. lukebunker
    Sep 12, 2013 @ 17:20:46

    Nicely said, Judy.

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